Knock, knock: A Viking ship sails by the Kennedy

I was so lucky today to meet Susan Thomsen when I knocked at the ivy-draped home just west of the Kennedy. The one the retired Whitney Young High art teacher shares with her husband, Finn. She waltzed me right in and started showing me around their home and studio.

knock honore frontdoor

Both of them are artists and seem to see beauty and potential in just about everything (and everyone) around them.
Take a peek first at my slideshow. Then we’ll talk some more . . .

 

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So what’s to know about this Viking ship of a home just west of the Kennedy?
Knock, knock . . .

Who’s there? Finn and Susan Thomsen (and sometimes their visiting grandchildren; when I visited, it was Jake Madigan)

 

Finn sculpted wood to adorn the bathroom door, expanded the bathroom and lined the shower with salvaged teak wood he got from Bob Sirott.

Finn sculpted wood to adorn the bathroom door, expanded the bathroom and lined the shower with salvaged teak wood he got from Bob Sirott.

The back story: Finn Thomsen had sailed around the world 17½ times over 14 years with the Danish Merchant Marines (he joined when he was 14; “school wasn’t really for me,” he says) before anchoring in Chicago. It would be several more years before he would marry Susan and move into this “little cottage” of a house (Susan) filled with “possibilities” (Finn).

"Man with a Porpoise" by Julian Harr, a birthday gift for Finn from Susan.

"Man with a Porpoise" by Julian Harr, a birthday gift for Finn from Susan.

Over the years, the couple, both artists – Finn doing mostly sculpture and Susan teaching at Whitney Young High School – also filled it up with photographs, art and furniture made by Finn, turtle skulls and a revolving door of visitors.

knock honore kitchen

So what else is inside? The kitchen is what greets you when you first enter the Thomsens’ home. There, deep-hued wood that could probably tell as many tales as the Thomsens dresses the floor. A long, thin table holds court and swirly metal, wood-topped stools line up on its either side. Finn made them all. The table in 1973 (he didn’t have to pause to whip off the year). The stools from remnants of countertops and culverts used in a restaurant he helped decorate. Soto Estella was its name.

This, I call, the magic trunk. I love its colors and promise of surprise.

This, I call, the magic trunk. I love its colors and promise of surprise.

Everywhere you turn, your eye is nabbed by something that sparks questions. A mannequin. Doll heads. Six-foot-tall sculptures. A wasp nest (a wedding present from Susan’s mother. Finn and Susan each got one of their own).

A young Finn, feathers and turtle skulls.

A young Finn, feathers and turtle skulls.

But when you pass a spot for a second time, you realize there are other curiosities you missed before. While examining a lovely sculpture that looked like it might have roots in Oaxaca (but actually was made by their niece), I finally realized that table it was sitting on was a street floodlight. Something Finn “sorta found.” OK, let’s just move on here.

 

The end of our Viking tale.

The end of our Viking tale.

Parting shot: When I finally walked out of the Thomsens’ home, I walked around the end of the house to get a closer look at the large piece of art that adorned the exterior wall and that made me want to knock in the first place. The spools, the dragon’s head. Ah, a Viking ship. Of course. Finn was born in Denmark, near Copenhagen. And he’d sailed the world many times over. Yup, just as the inside matched the outside, the outside matched Finn.  

 

 

 

 

 

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10 Comments

Filed under Knock, knock

10 responses to “Knock, knock: A Viking ship sails by the Kennedy

  1. Nathalie MARCHAY

    For Finn and Sue,

    It is impossible to find a house like yours somewhere else on the world ; I love it

    it is so good to see you again
    it is so funny to see you on a computer

    Nathalie.

  2. Pingback: Somewhere in time in Wicker Park :: the snoopster

  3. Pingback: Knock, knock :: the snoopster

  4. That house is incredibly cool. I especially like the table and swirly stools.

  5. Hello. I love what you are up to, so interesting and all about Chicago…and some celebs, too. Thanks for visiting my blog and adding me to your blog list. I am honored. If I can do anything else for you..let me know. My post tomorrow is about going to an Estate Sale in a geodesic dome! xo Joan

  6. Florence

    Incredible house. Such imagination. Such creativity. It’s exciting to see something so wonderfully different.

    Love the blog!

    • dear florence, i’m thrilled to hear from you and to hear your reaction to this home. how did you find ‘the snoopster?” i’m so happy you did and thank you for your kind words about it. i think of you and art often. am planning on coming up your way next week. i’ll stop into your shop and hope to see you!

  7. The kitchen stools are wonderful.

  8. Joyce

    Very cool people; wonderful, fanciful place; excellent find; incredible Snoopster story! YEA!

    • thanks for taking a look, joyce, and writing! i’m glad you liked the Thomsens and their house too. i was so captivated by their raw charm and the rich and fascinating lives they have led.

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